PGA Tour Confidential: Who deserves to be ranked No. 1?

PGA Tour Confidential: Who deserves to be ranked No. 1?

Martin Kaymer become the first European player since Nick Faldo in 1989 to win three straight stroke play events.
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Every week of the 2010 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.


Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Huge day of golf, here, there and everywhere. Let’s start over there: According to the computer nerds at the Official World Golf Rankings, Lee Westwood is going to usurp Tiger Woods as No.1 on Oct. 31. But I’m not sure Westwood is even the best European right now. That would be Martin Kaymer, who today won the Dunhill Links, his third-straight victory dating to the PGA Championship. Who do ya like, Kaymer or Westy?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Kaymer, by a mile. He was a rock while winning the PGA Championship and again at the Ryder Cup. So solid over so many big putts-impressive.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It’s funny that Kaymer was a load at the Ryder Cup, then turns around and wins-a major and three other wins. That said, I think Westwood beats him to No. 1. One question nobody has asked is: How far is Tiger going to fall down in the rankings eventually? Third? Fifth? Top 15? I don’t know.

Shipnuck: I love Westwood’s game, but at the majors he’s never been able to make the key putt. Kaymer has already proven he can do it. That’s a monumental difference.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Give me the man with the major and the winning streak. It’s gotta be Kaymer, with Westwood right behind.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: It’s hard to say. Kaymer has been impressive and is probably the best player in the world right now, but the world ranking points are what they are. How else do you explain how a guy who hasn’t won all year could still be the No. 1 player in the world in October?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The ranking is meaningless unless you understand every nuance of how it is computed and nobody does. The ranking represents more manipulation of a gullible public that wants easy answers to difficult questions like what happens after death and who is the number one golfer in the world. Best to decide this stuff for yourself. The Player of the Year on any tour, lowercase t, is Bernhard Langer. The golfer of the year is G-Mac, Graeme McDowell.

Shipnuck: Funny that Phil is not even part of the conversation. Dude went 16 under to win the Masters-only three guys have ever gone lower. At the Ryder Cup, Amy intimated that Phil’s health has affected him more than he’s let on. Assuming he gets healthy, next year there could be 4-5 guys with a shot at No. 1. Fun stuff.

Herre: And Westwood probably won’t be No. 1 for long because of the points system.

Hack: Could go something like the LPGA world rankings, with players trading No. 1 back and forth. Wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Herre: Good point, Damon. Would be fun to see something like the LPGA chase happen on the men’s tours. Would make the World Ranking a little more relevant.

Van Sickle: We ought to re-run the world rankings but only use the points that a player earned this year. That would be a better ranking system or at least a more current/relevant one. Kaymer has got to be No. 1 in that one with four wins.

Shipnuck: Let’s pick up on Bamby’s point. Who’s the world player of the year, and why? G-Mac gets my vote. Conquered Pebble, won the Wales Open, won the Ryder Cup, could still win the Race to Dubai. Langer has been stellar, but that’s still an exhibition circuit.

Herre: Yeah, the senior tour is weak. Next you’ll be telling me Mark O’Meara won out there. For player of the year, I would go Kaymer, McDowell, Dustin Johnson, Mickelson.

Evans: Martin Kaymer is the world player of the year because he’s won big tournaments all over the world. Yet had he not won in America at the PGA-I know it’s imperialist of me-but it wouldn’t matter much in the golf world. Sorry, Thomas Friedman.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I’ll take Kaymer as well. A major, three wins in a row, leading in the Race to Dubai … that’s a nice trifecta.

Bamberger: You cannot rank golfers categorically, and you don’t need to. They do it in college basketball and college football because they need to. For golf it exists chiefly for getting into certain events. The Masters used to just decide who they wanted. It was less democratic and more fun that way. Nobody believes the Tour when it says at the Players, “We have 98 of the 100 best golfers in the world here.” Says who?

Van Sickle: Golf has the best ranking system of any sport — it’s called the scoreboard. Players play 72 holes and turn in their cards. Best score wins. That player is No. 1 in the world for that week. Who’s No. 1 the next week? Probably somebody else. The rankings are flawed by necessity. What I don’t like is that they’re being used too much to determine who gets in the big events. I really don’t like FedEx Cup points/standings being used for any kind of qualification. That’s a joke and that idea should be put back in a box and kicked into the river.

Shipnuck: Since we’re talking about the LPGA and No. 1, the big story this week in Alabama was Cristie Kerr. At one point on Saturday she was 20-under and five shots clear of the field, recalling her dominating performance at the LPGA Championship. But she went 2-over the rest of the way and got nipped at the wire by Katherine Hull. What do we make of Kerr, who can be so dominating and so fragile, sometimes in the same week?

Van Sickle: Like Paula Creamer, Kerr is a good little player. Capable of winning a major, maybe several, capable of winning on the tour. Not capable of being a dominant-type player on the level of Annika or Ochoa. Kind of a Davis Love of women’s golf. Very, very good.

Shipnuck: Kerr talks so much about her work with her sports psychologist. I’m always suspicious of someone like that. You play golf all alone, not with a shrink whispering in your ear.

Godich: I would not group Creamer with her just yet. Kerr keeps looking like she’s ready to get to the next level, then can’t sustain it. Paula just won a major and is how many years younger? I’ll be interested to see what kind of boost that gives her career.

Herre: Kerr has a lot of grit and is a great putter, but she’s only an OK ball-striker. When she has a good ball-striking round, she’s dynamite. Otherwise, not as special.

Hack: Her display at the LPGA was remarkable and probably underappreciated. She’s clearly among the best on tour, but with Yani and Ai and Paula et al, it’s crowded at the top.

Evans: After winning the LPGA and taking the No. 1 ranking, Kerr went on a media blitz the following week instead of resting to get ready for the next major. She was tired at the U.S. Open and promptly lost her place in the rankings. Having been up close to her, I think she likes the limelight and her place in the game with the absence of Annika and Lorena. But deep down she’s uncomfortable with being the “It” girl. Never having been the most popular girl in school or on the LPGA Tour, she might not be ready to take on the chore of being the women’s game’s leading ambassador.

Shipnuck: That’s interesting, Farrell. People rarely consider a player’s personality. Both Nick Price and Fred Couples should have had long reigns at No. 1, but they didn’t have a stomach for all the hoopla that came with it.

Godich: Kerr has been around long enough that if it hasn’t happened by now, it’s not going to happen.

Van Sickle: Good point, Mark. And I’d disagree with Damon that Kerr is clearly the best player. I don’t think that’s clear at all. LPGA has no clear best player at the moment, but a lot of interesting potential best player candidates. Don’t forget Shin.

Hack: Didn’t say she was the best, GVS. Among the best.

Van Sickle: Nice weasel-wording.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I think Kerr wants to be the No. 1 player in women’s golf, but it’s so close right now that one bad week (or one good one by one of the other top few) changes everything. It seems like it should be easy to simply grab it and hold on, but it’s not.

Herre: Here’s one that’s really off the wall — I’m sitting here watching/listening to the LPGA on Golf Channel and Beth Daniel is doing the color. She sounds EXACTLY like Helen Hunt!

Bamberger: And kinda resembles her, too.

Van Sickle: If she starts talking about a tornado approaching, I know how that one ends.

Shipnuck: OK, let’s move on to the PGA Tour. (You do remember the PGA Tour, right?) Nice little event this week in Sea Island. Sure looks like a swell place. I think this is what the Fall Series should do, visit smaller markets that can’t afford the payout of a “regular season” event. What’d you guys think of this inaugural event and Heath Slocum’s gritty win?

Van Sickle: One thing I like about the Fall Series is that I find the race for the top 125 spots, and exempt status, far more compelling than the FedEx Cup battle of the millionaires. If I was the commish, I’d definitely make Fall Series events count toward next year’s money list, the FedEx Cup points list and, oh yeah, try to convince the Masters to invite the tournament winners.

Evans: Great event. Excellent leaderboard. Proven winner in Slocum. Nowadays there are no weak PGA Tour events. That’s why they need to bring back events in Milwaukee and Atlanta. The people will come. Well, at least the players will come.

Godich: We’ve heard about Sea Island so much with Davis Love and all the other players who live there that it was nice to get a look. I loved what I saw. I agree that the Fall Series should capitalize on these smaller markets.

Bamberger: Sea Island is a perfect place to have a low-key event. I know Davis and his brother, Mark, and a whole bunch of other people worked their tails off to make this first year go well. As the Charlotte event showed, if you have a good course and the players have a good week, word of mouth can take over fast. It was a great start for them. Davis told me at the Ryder Cup that for years he was always saying “thank you” to volunteers for this and that, but he never really understood what it meant until this year.

Van Sickle: It looked like a friendly little gathering with not many fans. Some good water views, and pretty strong finishing holes, too. Made for some tense action. Still, it was odd that the event was played at a club that’s bankrupt and going on the auction block Monday.

Herre: I tell ya, Sea Island looked great and made me wish I was there. Wish I had a couple billion to spare.

Shipnuck: A couple billion?! The rumored asking price is ONLY $197.5 million. Will they take a corporate AmEx?

Herre: The resort probably spent more than that on its latest renovation. $197.5M is a bargain.

Gorant: Do I smell Trump?

Herre: Good call, Jim G. Trump has been in buy mode throughout the recession. Bargains galore.

Van Sickle: Not with his own money, that’s for sure. Maybe somebody else’s money.

Bamberger: Put Jim Gorant on The Apprentice! Trump could come in, but not at auction. He loves blue-blood addresses, and then sort of thumbs his nose at them, as he has done in Palm Beach. Sea Island and Trump-perfect together.

Van Sickle: I can see it being repackaged. Are you ready for … Trump Island?

Evans: Sea Island is too remote for a guy like Trump. A quail-hunting, fishing crew of millionaires is going to buy the Sea Island place and make it more exclusive.

Bamberger: They inspect your luggage for pink and green at the toll bridge. Sea Island’s problem is that it’s too exclusive.

Van Sickle: I think Farrell hit on the problem with Sea Island. Location, location, location.

Shipnuck: The Tour should give more players a tournament. Phil in SD, Freddie in Houston, Ernie in Florida, Furyk somewhere in Pennsylvania. Why wait till they’re old like Jack and Arnie? It gives an event an identity and players will get other players to play.

Evans: Not many players are big enough to attract big name sponsors. Right now only Phil and Tiger fit the bill.

Van Sickle: The Rickie Fowler Classic should be a beauty.

Gorant: But nothing compared the Charlie Hoffman Invitational.

Shipnuck: But you don’t need huge sponsors for the Fall Series. Smaller is sometimes better.

Van Sickle: That’s why you get celebrities, like Justin Timberlake in Vegas. I could see a Will Farrell Invitational, a Paris Hilton Classic, maybe a Ben Roethlisberger Open in which college girls get free admission.

Herre: I read Sunday that Detroit Golf Club is hoping to land a Tour event. Would love to see golf back in the Motor City.

Van Sickle: Having covered several grim Senior Player Championships in Dearborn, my enthusiasm for a return to Detroit is less than yours.

Bamberger: Old-timey, that Detroit GC. Could become the next Westchester CC.

Herre: Ouch, Michael. That might doom any Detroit event.

Shipnuck: We can’t adjourn without mentioning one of my favorite players, Y.E. Yang, who came from 10 back to win in Korea. For all the talk about Twitter at the Ryder Cup, Twitter has been great for Y.E. His translated tweets are funny and enlightening and sometimes full of self-loathing. Can’t wait for his reports on this victory.

Van Sickle: I think Dan Jenkins would call this question a rally-killer, Alan.

Bamberger: I was under the impression, Alan, that you lead a rich and exciting life. Come to find out, you wait on overseas tweets. I’m so sorry.

Shipnuck: What can I say, I’m bereft of material. See you boys next week!